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What happens to the money you drop in the well at the Castle Museum - and how much is in there?

PUBLISHED: 12:36 28 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:26 29 April 2019

Friends of the Norwich Museums chairman Chris Sanham and the Castle Museum well. Picture: David Hannant

Friends of the Norwich Museums chairman Chris Sanham and the Castle Museum well. Picture: David Hannant

Archant

It is one of Norwich Castle Museum's most popular features, nestled in its historic keep.

Friends of the Norwich Museums volunteers counting coins from the Castle Museum well. Picture: FNMFriends of the Norwich Museums volunteers counting coins from the Castle Museum well. Picture: FNM

For most museum visitors, dropping a coin into the 36-metre deep well, making a wish and listening out for that magical plop is a quintessential part of the trip.

But just what happens to the coins once they have made their descent to the depths of the well?

Around three or four times per year the coins are collected, and donated to the Friends of the Norwich Museums (FNM), a near 100-year-old independent charity which supports the city's three main museums.

However, the journey of these coins is far more complex than one might imagine.

Friends of Norwich Museum chairman Chris Sanham at the Castle Museum well. Picture: David HannantFriends of Norwich Museum chairman Chris Sanham at the Castle Museum well. Picture: David Hannant

Chris Sanham, chairman of the FNM, said: “When the coins are collected, museum staff hoist it up using a pully. At the very bottom of the well there is a large grate with holes in it to allow the majority of the water to drain out.

“However, as you might expect, when the coins come out they are rather slimy and smell most unpleasant.”

Once the coins have been collected, they are hand-washed under taps by FNM volunteers, who then count them and organise into bags to be taken to the bank.

Mr Sanham said: “The last time we did a collection, which was around the beginning of April, there was £509, so you can picture the looks I got at the bank arriving with that type of amount, mainly in pennies.

Money from the Castle Museum well is hoisted up three or four times a year. Picture: Sonya BrownMoney from the Castle Museum well is hoisted up three or four times a year. Picture: Sonya Brown

“However, once I told the teller where they came from they were much more engaged. 'Look at all these wishes I'm collecting' she said.”

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Once the money is banked, the Friends are able to use it to contribute to items for the museum collections.

Mr Sanham added that most of the coins themselves will go back into circulation, however, others end up in such a state of repair that they are sent back to the Royal Mint, melted down and recycling into new currency.

The money is pooled together with the amounts gathered in other collection boxes across the museum and declared in the charity's accounts. In 2018, £4,179 was between the well and the boxes, while £4,751 was collected in 2017.

Gateway to Medieval England project

The well is nestled in the Castle Museum's historic keep, which is in the midst of a major revamp.

The Gateway to Medieval England project will see wholesale changes to the keep, reinstating the Norman floors and rooms in a £13m project.

One stand-out exhibit will be an 18-metre tapestry celebrating the castle's history - to which the FNM has contributed £30,000.

As the well itself is part of the architectural structure of the building, it will remain a feature of the keep. However, it will be out of action while the work is carried out.

Mr Sanham added: “The keep's closure will of course mean something of a loss of income for us - the well is by far the collection which brings in the most as there is that little bit of magic people love about throwing money into water from a great height.

“However, it will be a short term loss for a long term gain.

“In the meantime we would encourage visitors to make use of the other collection boxes around the museums.”

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